INTERVIEW: Kaine reflects on his time as Virginia's governor

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – While Bob McDonnell is set to take up the mantle of leadership in the commonwealth, Tim Kaine is preparing to step down. We take a look back at the legacy Kaine hopes to leave behind.

This wasn't the governorship Tim Kaine had planned for.

"It has been my lot to lead Virginia through the toughest economy since the 1930's," said Tim Kaine.

When he took office Kaine had big plans: expanding pre-K, fixing the commonwealth's transportation system and investing heavily in Virginia's higher education system. But the optimistic politician learned quickly that governing often means dealing with things that you can't plan for. Like the tragic events at Virginia Tech on April 16th 2007.

No one was prepared for so many people to be senselessly gunned down on of all places a seemingly safe college campus. He responded with a speech that brought him accolades across the country.

"That universality of hope is something that all around this world and here in this audience have embraced," said Kaine during the memorial on April 20, 2007.

But while Kaine's response in the immediate aftermath was heralded, his administration was continually dogged with questions about what went wrong. Questions he says will never go away.

"There is just no way to completely come to terms with a loss that seems so horrible and is in some ways, so pointless."

Kaine made strides with a fickle and divided legislature who often fought him for both philosophical and partisan reasons. Despite their push and pull- the governor successfully pushed through a ban on smoking in most public places; a change that at the time was credited to overwhelming public support.

"People will get the experience and realize that this is a good thing for health and just for aesthetic enjoyment of people eating out," Kaine said.

But the democratic governor may have made his biggest impact at the ballot box. Kaine served as the national co-chair for Barack Obama; the man who would become the first black president in American history and the first democrat to win Virginia in more than 4 decades.

"It's not yes we can! Its yes we did!!"

And Kaine did more than just get Virginians to vote for Barack Obama. He came very close to becoming his pick for vice president.

"The president told me at one point, he said you know, you are my heart pick and Biden is my head pick. Sometimes I go with my heart, sometimes I go with my head," Kaine said.

Obama eventually picked Joe Biden.

But Virginia's governor did not get long to celebrate. Quickly the reality of the country's financial situation set in creating a budget hole that seemed to grow by the day. Despite the difficulty he claims the state has survived the storm.

"Walking out I can say that there is not another state in this country that has the claim to leadership that Virginia has right now," said Kaine.

A claim that will now be up to historians to decide.

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